When people retire from a long term job there is always a shadow of sadness. Thoughts of probably not seeing certain people again and one’s skills of the business meetings become less important to oneself.
However, this is an occasion to celebrate an achievement which I have been climbing up to the top of the ladder for most of my life and now the goal is won with success.
I was born with a disability which was a disappointment to my parents. My first task in life to win was to prove that I am a member of society and not a ‘poor crip’. As Mike O’Connor would say, the wide world has so much to offer without having to nurture a disability.
Nine years of boarding school for girls in Cambridge was fun, but I suffered from homesickness as my parents lived in Surrey. The head mistress was strict and expected the pupils to do well enough, including Pitman’s shorthand, to get an office job when leaving the school. Well my best was playing with water pistols, potato guns and swinging conkers on a string around. I even had the cane for writing on my desk. Years later I asked the teacher how she felt when caning me: “Very guilty. The head told us we weren’t to hit any child but you were beyond anyone’s patience.”
The physiotherapist was brilliant and gave as much time as possible to mould me into the person I am today.
On 14th July 1958 I travelled to Croydon by train which proved to me that I enjoyed travelling, but couldn’t understand the reason for my mother having to travel in the guards van with me when she could ill afford the rail fare. Holidays were out of the question and I went from leaving school to residential care.
While living in residential care I decided to make myself useful and get a Saturday job cleaning the residents' wheelchairs and cleaning sinks in the residents' bedrooms to earn myself some money, which was a success. This boosted my self-esteem and inspired me to greater things. The spotlight then shone on Vic, a new resident. We were married within nine years despite breaking all the rules – people were lead to believe that marriage wasn’t for folk with disabilities. How wrong they were. Forty four years later and we are still going strong. Well, more or less. Two hundred guests came to our wedding in the year of 1972.
We lived in a warden controlled flat in London for eleven years. While listening to a talking magazine one day my ears pricked up when hearing the words ‘Shinewater Court’. I imagined the sun shining on the sea and my mind was made up there and then that we would move to Eastbourne, much to my husband’s confused mind. Within seven months we were tenants at Shinewater Court.
My real long term desire was revealed a few years later when I was voted to be a trustee of The Disabilities Trust. At long last I was part of the business world where I could practice my learning skills and dress code.
Thank you to the late Norman Thody, who was the founder of The Disabilities Trust, the directors and trustees for giving me the chance to be myself and fulfil my ambition.
(Ann Hancox, 21st November 2016)